Retailing is always said to be 50:50 art & science.

Last week I wrote about metrics – and the importance of it. But metrics usually only tell what happened in the past and facilitates decision making based on the ceteris paribus assumption.

This week is about the other half - the diametric opposite of ‘metrics’.

The ART of retail is the ability to tell stories – on different levels.

ONE: The first and the most important is your proposition – which your ‘meta-story.’ Your proposition is your product, your offer, your brand all wrapped up into ‘something you stand for’. This is a silent statement your business makes to the market. This is what the customers perceive when they see/think/interact with your business.

If this story is not clear, customers don’t care. If this story is not interesting/relevant/different – they won’t re-tell your story.

TWO: Visual Merchandising is about story telling. Every display tells a story. And a story is not a theme – so adding a few bales of straw and a cowboy hat does not make it a story. That is just interior decorating. (A series of 12 posts on the topic can be found HERE – or search on the site for visual merchandising for a host of others.)

Your display should communicate to the customer a message that is relevant to what the customer may need/want. Even a 2m high stack of baked beans without decorations tells a story.

THREE: Your customers’ experience (the whole journey) through your store must be a story worth sharing. This includes the presentation, but also the service, the selling and the ambience.

Especially important is your sales process. It should be Sell$mart – that is your staff should be equipped to use the principles of metaphorical selling that is based on the latest neuroscience research to help the customers relate positively the sales interaction. (A short series of posts on the topic can be found HERE.)

The retailer that sells to a customer by fulfilling an emotional need is the one that wins the game. (Functional needs must be met as well of course, but that is a given.)

In your ‘sales story’, authenticity and trust must ALWAYS be the theme; but you can wrap the story in your own plot with your own character to create engaging stories that customers want to share in.

Advertising and promotions are obvious story-telling events and opportunities.

ALL of retail is about how define and then tell your story.


If customers relate to it, you have a business. And the opposite.

Have fun – be Retail$martTM


Dr Dennis Price helps retailers and their retail supply chain to (re-)capture their entrepreneurial mojo with the right skills, strategies and systems to improve business performance.

(HT: This post was inspired by a twitter conversation instigated by @DoTheWoo and @DebraTemplar.)